Arts & Entertainment

Pursuing and Developing the Idea

James Cameron

Lesson time 14:03 min

James discusses how to identify the idea that won’t go away and how to harness the power of your dreams to develop a story authentically.

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Topics include: Pursue the Idea That Won’t Go Away • Harness Your “Zero-Cost Subscription Service” • Develop the Story Your Own Way • Three-Act Structure: Know the Rules and Break Them • Use Authenticity as Your Anchor • Never Forget Your Principles • Express Your Perspective Thematically


[MUSIC PLAYING] JAMES CAMERON: One of the biggest questions in creativity-- any form of creativity is, when is an idea that you have that pops up like a little champagne bubble in your mind worth pursuing? The answer to that is highly subjective. What appeals to you? What are-- are you interested in as an artist or as someone aspiring to be an artist in cinema? What compels you to tell a story? Is it the visual aspects of it? Is it the world that you want to immerse people in? Is it a particular character? Is it a particular problem for a character that you want to explore maybe based on how it resonates with something in your life? Or maybe it's a story that you've read and say, I want to do something like that, or it's a film that you've seen and say, I want to do something like that. Maybe it's very unformed at first. Okay, there's this-- this woman does this. I want to tell this story, you know? Put some detail on it, you know? Who is she? What time-- what time in the world is it? What's the setting? And how does that resonate? And maybe-- maybe you put her in Cincinnati in 1962 and all of a sudden, ah, too limiting socially. Maybe it needs to be in some dystopian future, you know? And so just let it swirl around. And don't lock in on anything right away. I mean, I think that one of the keys to this is to be open and flexible and always-- always keep an openness. So really, it's a question of after that initial process, is the-- does the idea stand the sort of sniff test for something that you want to really devote your time to? And I think the answer to that is it just won't go away, you know? The idea just won't go away. It starts to resonate with things that are happening in your life or in the news or in another film that-- that you see and it starts to get more detailed, it starts to come into focus. And then there'll would be a certain point where you say, I've just got to sit down and write this. The imagination never stops. It's always working. And I think ideas come to any kind of artist from-- from different sources, and the subconscious is one that certainly the surrealist artists back around the turn of the last century believed in. They believed in dream imagery. They believed that it was an unmediated, unintellectualized version of their subconscious creative force or imagination, and I believe that to be true also. It's my zero-cost subscription to a streaming service that's all my own. Every night I get all kinds of entertaining stuff. I know I've-- I've woken up having leafed through sketchbooks or-- or paintings and thought to myself, man, I wish I could paint like that, then realized I just did. And then scramble around and try to draw it out, draw out the ideas that I've seen. And every once in a while something stands out. Whether it's a scene in a narrative sense that might be-- it be tragic, it might be joyful, or maybe it's just an image. To pick an example, "Terminator" start...

About the Instructor

From The Terminator and Titanic to Avatar, James Cameron has directed some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. Now, for the first time in his 40-year career, he opens up about his process. Through behind-the-scenes breakdowns, James shares his approach to developing ideas, storylines, and characters; harnessing technology; and worldbuilding on any budget. Explore the innovation and imagination behind epic moviemaking.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

James Cameron

Academy Award–winning director James Cameron teaches you the tricks of the trade and shares his approach to epic moviemaking on any budget.

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